When I started this blog, I would have been surprised about several aspects concerning this blog today. I would not have guessed that I would still be as enthusiastic (perhaps even more) about trying to publish at least every other day. I would have been shocked over the apparent popularity and acclaim that it has received (I am still shocked about that, actually). And I would have certainly been surprised by the number of winemakers and wine industry folk with whom I have become friends.
Today, that is not all that shocking since, for the most part, people who go into the wine business are outgoing, social, and friendly types. After all, their job is to make and sell a beverage that is intended to bring a certain level of joy to their customers.
Thus, it would have also been difficult to predict how I would feel when a one of these new-found friends asks me to review his or her wines. On one hand, I like to think that I have built a bit of a reputation for being objective and fair when reviewing wines. On the other, what if the wines sucked?
Fortunately, when Ryan Sherman, the winemaker and partner at Fields Family Wines, contacted me to review his new releases, I did not worry for a second about the quality of the wines–Ryan is generally regarded as one of the most talented winemakers in the Lodi appellation.
2016 Fields Family Grenache Blanc DeLu Vineyard, Lodi: Retail $24. Grenache Blanc simply does not get enough love. Perhaps best known as one of the major white varieties in the Rhône Valley, you just do not see much of it anywhere else. Leave it to Lodi to start planting the vines and producing wines that are worthy of note. This gem by Ryan Sherman has plenty of melon and tropical notes, with minerality and floral notes. Plenty of acidity to buoy the fruit with a touch of wet rock and chalk. The finish is clean and of medium length–very nice. Excellent. 90-92 Points.
2016 Fields Family Wines Vermentino DeLu Vineyard, Lodi: Retail $22. Every time I see “Vermentino” on a label, I cringe a little inside. Rarely do you see a winemaker use the French word for the grape, Rolle, which is really too bad since there are far more puns that can be created with the latter. As for this wine, to no surprise, it is delightful: honeysuckle, citrus, and even lavender aromas are followed by a lip-smacking tartness that demands another sip. That palate is also loaded with lemons and limes, but also plenty of wet, crushed rock. This would do wonders for a seafood laden dish, from oysters or fried calamari to whole trout or swordfish steak, so basically whatever you choose to serve, this wine can easily roll with it (sorry, had to). Excellent. 90-92 Points.
2016 Fields Family Syrah 100% Whole Cluster Lodi: Retail $25. For those who argue that American Pinot producers darken their wines with Syrah should try this beauty from Ryan Sherman at Fields: lighter than most Pinots in the glass with savory black raspberry, clove, and violet. Whoa. This more resembles a young Northern Rhône than it does the almost cliché jammy, over-extracted California Syrah. The key is its initial subtlety–this wine does not whack you over the head with fruit, rather, it gradually wins you over with finesse and elegance. And the finish? Minutes long. Whoa. Excellent to Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
2014 Fields Family Zinfandel Stampede Vineyards Lodi: Retail $28. Only 100 cases made from old vines (average around 80 years old), this wine is fairly dark in the glass with plenty of juicy fruit: blackberry, plum, cassis. This is not what comes to mind when one imagines “Lodi Zinfandel” since even though it is certainly fruit driven, it has a lighter side with impressive depth. While many Zins can be hedonistic or even brutish, this is a sophisticated wine that encourages reflection and demands attention. Bravo. Excellent to Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2014 Fields Family Wines Syrah Estate, Lodi: Retail $25. My first press trip was to Lodi, California and I have since been back to the appellation countless times. My in-laws used to live a mere 45 minutes from the region so it was an easy escape, er, diversion, um, respite (?) to go visit many of the friends I had made through my visits. Most of them would cringe (with justification) at what I am about to write: Lodi is seen as a “hot” region that is best known for its Zinfandel. While that is certainly a factual statement, the first half is latently false (Lodi is about as warm as Napa), and the second should soon become a relic of another time. There are over 100 varieties grown in the appellation and while there is certainly a lot of Zinfandel under vine, the region might be best suited for Rhône varieties. This Syrah is fairly dark in the glass with jammy blackberry, cassis, and black pepper aromas predominate. On the palate, that fruit is still the star of the show, but there is plenty of spice and tart cherry to balance it through the mid-palate. It finishes a tad hot, but at 13.8%, this is far from a monster. In fact, it shows that Syrah might just fulfill its promise in this “land of Zinfandel.” Excellent. 90-92 Points.
2014 Fields Family Wines Tempranillo, Lot 13 Vineyard, Lodi: Retail $24. BLEND??? Tempranillo is most readily associated with Spain, particularly Rioja and Ribera del Duoro (among a few others), and it is typically fruity and uncomplicated when young, but can be one of the most age-worthy varieties when handled deftly and aged in oak barrels. This Fields Family Temp (what the cool kids call it, apparently) is a medium to dark purple in the glass with dark raspberry, anise, and Christmas spice on the nose. On the palate, what a delight. Yes, there is fruit (dark, red berry—blackberry, raspberry), but there is also a whole lot else: spice, depth, weight. Of all the wines here, this just might be my favorite. But I am not supposed to say that. Excellent to Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
*Note: I apologize for the lack of photos of the wines. I am currently in the Munich airport and I realized that all of the photos are on my desktop at home. I had hoped to find some bottle shots on the Fields Family Wines website, but, well, the website falls into the “stinks” category. Sorry Ryan, some tough friendly love there.